Green success! Asset declarations make the European Parliament more transparent
A clear majority of the European Parliament (489 yes, 57 no, 102 abstentions) voted today in favor of MEPs having to declare their assets. This was initiated by the Greens and is the most significant anti-corruption measure adopted so far in the aftermath of the Qatar-Gate corruption scandal. In future, MEPs will have to declare their assets to the European Parliament at the beginning and end of their term. This would make it much more difficult to hide or use assets obtained through corruption. A majority of MEPs also voted in favor of extending the disclosure requirements for lobby meetings. Provisions for a real ban on lobbying side jobs and better enforcement of the rules of conduct for MEPs did not receive the necessary majority due to massive opposition from the EPP and the far right.
Daniel Freund, Chair of the European Parliament’s anti-corruption inter-group, comments:
“The reforms will make the European Parliament considerably more transparent. Asset declarations make corruption more difficult and make it easier to verify if MEPs have unexplained incomes. This makes it much more difficult to use money from corruption, and bribery becomes less attractive. Asset declarations have long been standard in many EU states, but they do not yet exist in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Significantly more lobbying meetings are now subject to the disclosure requirement. Third-country lobbying must also be made transparent in future. These important steps can regain citizens’ trust in the EU institutions lost through Qatar-Gate.”
“However, several important reforms of the transparency rules were rejected in the European Parliament. We will continue to fight for them. Most painful is still the complete absence of an independent supervisory body of lobbying rules.”
MOST IMPORTANT VOTES
Success: declarations of assets
Annex I, Article 4a (adopted with 489 yes, 57 no, 102 abstentions)
“Members shall declare their assets and liabilities at the beginning and end of every term of office. The Bureau shall lay down the list of categories of assets and liabilities to be declared and shall draw up the form for the declaration. Such declarations shall be submitted to the President and shall be accessible only to the relevant authorities, without prejudice to national law.”
Success: Lobby transparency
Annex I, Artikel 5a publication of meetings
“1. Members should only meet interest representatives that are entered in the transparency register.
- Members shall publish online all scheduled meetings relating to parliamentary business
(a) with interest representatives falling within the scope of the Interinstitutional Agreement on a mandatory transparency register; or
(b) with representatives of public authorities of third countries, including their diplomatic missions and embassies.
- The obligation laid down in paragraph 2 shall apply to meetings attended by the Member or by the Member’s parliamentary assistants on his or her behalf.
- By way of derogation from paragraph 2, Members shall not publish a meeting the disclosure of which would endanger the life, physical integrity or liberty of an individual or may decide not to publish a meeting where there are other compelling reasons for maintaining confidentiality. Such meetings shall instead be declared to the President, who shall keep this declaration confidential or shall decide on an anonymised or delayed publication. The Bureau shall lay down the conditions under which the President may disclose such a declaration. …”
Most of this article was adopted with 414 yes, 210 no, 19 abstentions. Voted separately was part 2(a) with 454 yes, 176 no, 19 abstentions and part 3 with 397 yes, 226 no, 24 abstentions.
Lost: real ban on lobby side jobs
Change in Annex I, Article 2 – paragraph 1 c (rejected despite simple majority of 325 yes, 314 no, 12 abstentions, because it was short of the 353 votes necessary)
“(c) not engage in paid lobbying activities, including consulting and other services for entities falling within the scope of the Interinstitutional Agreement on a mandatory transparency register.”
instead so far: “(c) not engage in paid professional lobbying directly linked to the Union decision-making process.”
A number of MEPs currently declares to have side jobs as “consultant” or “lawyer” without explaining for which clients they do what. This way, Eva Kaili could have declared a side-job as consultant without even naming the network around Panzeri as source of her money. Such a way of accepting money will now remain possible.
Lost: independent experts for the Advisory Committee
Adoped was in Annex I, article 7, point 2 only:
“2. The Advisory Committee shall be composed of eight members.”
Rejected despite simple majority of 335 yes, 291 no, 19 abstentions (because it fall short of the 353 votes necessary):
“Five of those members shall be current Members of the European Parliament, appointed by the President at the beginning of his or her term of office, taking due account of the Members’ experience and of political and gender balance.”
Rejected despite a simple majority of 329 yes, 305 no, 18 abstentions (because short of the 353 votes necessary):
“The other three members shall be external experts with personal integrity and experience in professional ethics. They shall be appointed by the President at the beginning of his or her term of office. In the case of a vote, only the members of the Advisory Committee who are Members of the European Parliament shall be eligible to vote.”
Asset declarations make corruption more difficult and make it easier to verify if MEPs have unexplained incomes.